DO YOU WANT to know what being really old means? It means being old enough to remember a time when a Democrat who said a presidential candidate was like Dwight D. Eisenhower was not paying him a compliment. But we old-timers know all that has changed: Senator Glenn has acquired the Eisenhoweresque aura, and this makes him the envy of the rest of the pack. "I Like Ike-like"--the awful campaign slogan all but writes itself. But what does it mean ?
Well, in the first place, the image does not seem to rest on physical attributes: Although we never measured, it does appear to us that George McGovern's 1972 forehead expanse was almost as vast as that of Dwight D. Eisenhower, but it didn't do a thing for him in the general election. No, something intangible seems to be invoked by the nostalgia: stability, calm, authority, peacefulness. Those were the years before the terrible turmoil, before the death and destruction and civil conflict and loss of confidence in our purposes abroad that have marked the three decades since our 34th president came to office.
That, of course, is not the way the Democrats saw President Eisenhower at the time. It's not even close. How did they see him? More or less the same way so many of them describe Ronald Reagan now: a bumbler, a garbler, a not-too-bright fellow, one who lends himself often unwittingly to social and economic cruelties perpetrated by his aides who are cleverer than he is, one whose mild manner sits ill with the harsh, aggressive, dangerous policies (massive retaliation, brinksmanship) his administration seems to be propounding.
Will Ronald Reagan, some 30 years hence, have become the role model for aspiring Democrats? We can hear you saying it: Now you go too far. But we think in fact we may be in the presence of an eternal political characteristic here. After all, it was just a few years ago that Republicans were proudly comparing their candidates to the once much-reviled and despised (by them) Harry Truman. Then came Ronald Reagan, their most conservative candidate in years, likening himself to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a k a that man. And now there is this thing with Glenn-and-Ike. Watch for the next telltale sign. A Republican just a few elections from now will be saying how much his candidate resembles Lyndon Johnson. A Democrat will be boasting that his candidate is very much like Richard M. . . .
Sorry. We are unable to finish that sentence.